|Saginaw, MI – 6'2", 200|
|Scout||4*, #75 overall
#9 WR, #1 MI
|Rivals||4*, #101 overall
#4 ATH, #2 MI
|ESPN||4*, #148 overall
#11 ATH, #2 MI
|24/7||4*, #65 overall
#5 ATH, #1 MI
|Other Suitors||OSU, MSU, Neb, Wisconsin, Tenn|
|YMRMFSPA||Braxton Miller, WR Edition or… Braylon Edwards|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace. Live scouting from Ace an Dave. Ace caught him at Media Day as well.|
|Notes||UA game. Early enrollee. Twitter.|
Cole's Hudl film is kind of sparse, with nothing from this year. Here's the first four games of his junior year:
Still not bad, eh? Scouting film from Ace and Dave:
Here is why recruiting sites throw up their hands and give certain players the extremely non-informative "athlete" designation:
Cole is an incredibly versatile athlete who did just about everything but drive the team bus and cook the pregame meal at Saginaw Heritage. He played quarterback, running back, wide receiver, defensive back and returned kicks. He was even a punter.
And he drove the bus and cooked the pregame meal.
In Brian Cole, Michigan has an… uh… well, an athlete. But more like an ATHLETE! Here are some people going "like wow dang":
- Bud Elliott, SBNation: "…absolutely fantastic athlete, easily one of the best in the country … deadly on the football field … quick-twitch to the max. His ability to stop, and then get right back up to top speed is excellent. He can sky to get the football as a receiver if any defender has managed to keep up with his top-end speed, and he snatches the football well with his hands, naturally."
- ESPN: "…really impressive on the hoof. Big, strong and fast. Good height, long arms and has huge upside for frame development over time. He is an explosive 0 to 60 player with great feet and a second gear. Possesses an ideal combination of physical prowess and speed with excellent agility on both sides of the football. … When he gets to the second level he can be a hold your breath type of guy."
- Josh Helmholdt, Rivals: "[has] a combination of great size - he's built like a guy who could grow into a linebacker - but he has the speed and athleticism of a top-end wide receiver … it's the run-after-catch ability. He'll be a threat with the football once he has it in his hands."
- Allen Trieu, Scout (evaluating a single game in which Cole was a tailback): "…[showed] good feet and elusiveness for a kid of his size. He can make people miss and cut back and change directions like a smaller player. Defensively, where he had 10 tackles, he showed excellent closing speed and a lot of effort in pursuit. That extra gear and acceleration was surprising and impressive."
And then there's 24/7's Clint Brewster, who has a bit of a self-contradictory scouting report. In it he gives Cole a 9 for "explosiveness" and then:
"Cole is a bigger/stronger wide receiver that is more in the possession type of receiver mold. He runs outstanding routes and has un-matched physicality and competitiveness catching the ball in traffic or in one-on-one coverage. … game at wide receiver really reminds me of the NFL’s Anquan Boldin"
I dunno man. There's always one evaluation that seems like it's of another player, even if it's generally positive.
One thing about that scouting report that is echoed by others is heavy praise for Cole's ball skills. Anquan Boldin is a human vacuum and may be taking things too far, but both ESPN…
…will high point the ball from his safety position, naturally plucks the ball in contested match-ups and is not a player that fights the football or allows it to get into his frame. Shows good hand-eye coordination to time jumps, elevate in a crowd and pull ball away from receivers. Shows very good body control in conjunction with his ball skills."
…and his current WR coach…
The guy should be a senior in high school and he goes out there and I told him, I said, ‘Your ball skills are unbelievable. When you actually know what you’re doing it’s going to be unreal,’ because he makes some plays that are just tremendous.
…are on board.
Of course, there is that catch in there: "when you actually know what you're doing." Cole's high school team had little passing game and he missed a couple games because he got ejected. When he was on the field, his team wasn't helping him much. That tape Dave got at the top of the post is the exact opposite of Ty Isaac's high school film: you can't tell anything because there are 11 guys around him instead of 0.
- So he's raw at whichever position you'd like to project him to, including wide receiver. Take it from a man named Brian Cole:
“To be honest, I’m not even the best route runner … I’ve progressed and gotten better at it. But I’m still not where I want to be.”
Helmholdt echoed that in his evaluation, saying "he gets by mostly on pure athleticism" and that "route-running is something [he wants] to see more of from him." When Ace and Dave scouted Cole in person, this was the extent of what they saw from him at his college position:
Cole was far and away the best athlete on the field, made a few spectacular plays, a couple poor ones, and couldn't find any space to maneuver against a defense hell-bent on containing him. Unfortunately, the only half-decent look we got of him as a receiver—he's expected to play the slot at Michigan—came when he torched a corner off the line, got over the top of the safety, and... that's it, because his quarterback couldn't get the ball to him.
His coach at the Under Armor game even suggested he would end up redshirting. That is both an uncommon opinion and one that's based on the coach's projection that he'd play safety. Which he probably will at some point, because HARBAUGH, but given Michigan's crying need at WR—crying need for anyone who can outrun a traffic cone on offense—this evaluation isn't going to consider that.
Despite that rawness, Cole immediately impressed upon his enrollment. While the universe waited to see Jabrill Peppers assume the Woodson mantle, Cole may have been the #2 guy Michigan fans wanted to see after a solid month of hype. Hype like Sam Webb and Marcus Ray talking about a particular play on which Cole outran Michigan's (projected) superman. This is Ray after being prompted by Webb:
"He defeated double coverage, caught the ball with both hands with no fear, came down with it, hit a burst, split the safeties, scored a touchdown and got up and celebrated with his teammates. That was one of those plays where if you’re a parent or a recruit standing there and you’re over there talking about whatever and (someone says), ‘did you guys just see that play?’ It got your attention. He’s going to be a difference maker."
"Cole looks like a natural out there," Swenson said. "He must have made about six or seven plays when I was watching practice. He's just really smooth in running his routes and the way he was playing the game. He's definitely the guy that stood out to me overall on offense. It was really impressive."
Hoke's staff planned on starting Cole off in the slot, and Harbaugh seemed to go along with that—probably because in the absence of Dennis Norfleet, the list of scholarship slot receivers this spring consisted of "maybe Freddy Canteen unless we need him on the outside" and walkons.
Cole certainly has the skillset to play on the outside eventually. 6'2" leaping athletes generally get stuck out there, and if Cole comes close to matching his hype he will be on the field with a lot of tight ends, thus making him an outside receiver by default.
As far as this year goes… well, there's freshman receiver hype and freshman receiver reality. Cole did little in the spring game. The most recent true freshman wideout to make any sort of impact was Mario Manningham. Manningham spent his high school career demolishing secondaries across Ohio and would develop into one of the smoothest, most natural wide receivers Michigan has ever had; he still did not crack 30 catches his first year. An athlete(!) like Cole, even one who comes with an exclamation point attached, will do well to see the field on actual passing plays.
I mean, remember last year and Freddy Canteen? Yeah. I'd be way less surprised if Canteen started delivering this year and people were momentarily disappointed in Cole. Momentarily.
Early in the first quarter – Cole who is also Heritage’s punter – botched a low snap, and then, well, he improvised. First he ran left, no room, so then he ran right and took his speed to a new level as he outran the entire Arthur Hill defense for an electrifying 59 yard touchdown run.
If we run out of Australians, worth a try.
Why Braxton Miller, WR Edition? Miller is a 6'2", 220-pound-ish freak of an athlete with full-throttle speed and agility he should not have. Also he has spent the bulk of his career in the backfield so no one knows if he can play wide receiver. I mean, you'd think… but Darryl Stonum never got the hang of it so clearly there are hurdles to overcome.
Miller was a bigger recruit than Cole, around 30th nationally, but not by that much and since he clearly projected to a college position and played tougher competition sites were more comfortable sliding him up the list. Athleticism may be (should be?)comparable.
Braylon? Not as tall, might be as fast, needs some work his freshman year, can go get the dang ball.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. Mostly same thing, but ATH gonna ATH.
Variance: Very high. ATH gonna ATH and in this case you could see Cole never figuring out any position in particular and fading away or being ridiculous.
Ceiling: Huge. Clearly the guy with the most upside in this class unless Zach Gentry is 6'8" Denard.
General Excitement Level: High. Daddy needs a new pair of Braylons.
Projection: He's probably going to play, because Michigan needs something slot receiver-shaped. While Grant Perry may fit the bill in the Drew Dileo way, they need something more Breaston-esque with an offense that doesn't look like it has a lot of big play potential. I'm still skeptical he gets heavily involved just because of the precedents. Also I think Canteen will be pretty good.
With zero seniors in this year's receiving corps, Cole will face a slightly uphill battle for playing time in year two. It's not one he couldn't easily overcome if he hits the exponential section of his growth curve on the early side. 30/70 he passes someone to start; as a junior the depth chart will be open and the world will hopefully be his oyster.